The Comprehensive Midsummer MotoGP Silly Season Update - Ducati, Suzuki, Aprilia, Satellite Rides, Moto2 And Much More

This year's silly season – the endless speculation about who will end up riding where next year – has not so far lived up to the expectations from the start of the year. With all four factory Honda and Yamaha riders out of contract at the end of 2014, real fireworks were expected in the battle to secure signatures. That bidding war never unfolded, and with Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa back with Repsol Honda, Valentino Rossi already signed up to Movistar Yamaha, and Jorge Lorenzo looks likely to finalize his deal – a two-year contract with some kind of option to depart after a year – before the season resumes again in Indianapolis.

But silly season has been far from a disappointment. Over the past couple of weeks, the jostling for the remaining seats in MotoGP has really taken off, with the promise of wholesale changes taking place up and down the grid. With the exception of Pol Espargaro, who is expected to remain at Tech 3 for the second year of his two-year contract with Yamaha, just about every other seat on the grid could see a new occupant. The arrival of Suzuki and, it now appears, Aprilia offers four new factory seats to vie for, opening up new opportunities for the current crop of riders. The upgrading of Honda's RCV1000R makes the production Honda a more attractive proposition. And there looks set to be an influx of young talent into the class. The 2015 MotoGP grid could look very different, once you look past the top four.

While the factory line ups at Honda and Yamaha will be unchanged for next year, the factory Ducati team is likely to sport two new faces for 2015. Although Cal Crutchlow has a year to go on his contract with the Italian factory, neither party is particularly happy with the arrangement. Crutchlow has never really got over the shock of just how poorly the Ducati turns compared to the Yamaha he left behind, and has found it hard to keep his criticism to himself. Ducati, in turn, are not enamored of Crutchlow's forthright manner of speaking, nor of his criticism of the bike. Crutchlow's results have also been a disappointment to Ducati, although the Italian factory must bear some of the blame, given the many mechanical and electronics issue the bike has suffered. Ducati point to the performance of both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, though conceding that the two Italians have already had a year on the bike. For anyone who rode the Desmosedici GP13, the GP14 is a huge improvement. For anyone who rode a 2013 Yamaha M1, it is a complete disaster.

Crutchlow has an option to leave, which expires at the end of this month, but he needs somewhere to go to. On the other hand, if Ducati want Crutchlow to leave, they will have to buy him out of the second year of his contract. Some kind of compromise will probably be found, whereby Crutchlow is given a lump sum to go quietly.

Andrea Dovizioso's contract with Ducati expires at the end of the year, and the Italian's manager, Simone Batistella, has been negotiating an extension. Those talks have been described as 'long and hard', however, with little optimism that they will be brought to a successful end. Dovizioso has an offer from Suzuki, and that may look more attractive to the Italian than another year with Ducati, trusting that Gigi Dall'Igna has finally done what his predecessor never managed to do: build a competitive bike.

Ducati are instead looking to Andrea Iannone, the young Italian who has impressed with his speed this season. Iannone has strong backing inside the Pramac Ducati team, but is desperate for a full factory ride. Iannone has greatly improved his weakest point, his tendency to crash, and at 24 years of age, is on an upward trend. Dovizioso, at 28, is at the peak of his career. With Ducati still building towards the future, Iannone appears to be the better choice for the Bologna factory. An official announcement that Ducati have signed Iannone is expected in the next few days.

Who will share the garage with Iannone? Spanish media are convinced that it will be Aleix Espargaro. The young Spaniard has had a phenomenal year on the Forward Yamaha, but is desperate to ride a factory bike. To ride a factory option bike in a full factory team is an offer Espargaro the elder cannot refuse. A factory team is the only real option he has of buying himself out of the contract he has with Forward. Forward boss Giovanni Cuzari paid Aspar some 400,000 euros to buy Espargaro out of his contract with the Spanish team, and signed a two-year deal with Espargaro allowing him to leave if he gets a factory offer, but only on condition that he pays the rest of sum owed to Aspar, believed to be in the region of 250,000 euros.

That Aleix Espargaro should choose to ride for Ducati also has a deeper background. Ducati has been in talks with Jorge Lorenzo for some time, though both sides knew that they would be taking a risk if the double world champion were to desert Yamaha and jump on an unproven Desmosedici GP15. At the Sachsenring, Lorenzo's manager Albert Valera told Ducati formally that Lorenzo would not be riding for them next year. Valera is also manager of Aleix Espargaro, and has negotiated the deal with Ducati on Espargaro's behalf. Placing Espargaro at Ducati could presage a move by Lorenzo in 2016, with Valera in position to evaluate both the competitiveness of the GP15 – which will be a completely new bike, with a redesigned engine and chassis – and the situation inside Ducati Corse, and their willingness to listen to and work with riders.

With Iannone and Aleix Espargaro at Ducati, that leaves Dovizioso and Crutchlow riding elsewhere. Both men have had talks with Suzuki, but Suzuki boss Davide Brivio has only a limited budget for riders. Brivio is looking for a line up consisting of one experienced rider and one upcoming youngster. Of Dovizioso and Crutchlow, the Italian has more experience in MotoGP. Dovizioso has ridden a Honda RC212V, a Yamaha M1, and now a Ducati Desmosedici. That experience would be invaluable in trying to develop the Suzuki XRH-1, a bike which is still several seconds off the pace in the hands of test rider Randy De Puniet. That experience makes Dovizioso the favorite to take the Suzuki slot.

The talented youngster alongside Dovizioso could well be Maverick Viñales. The reigning Moto3 champion is one of the new breed of riders which team managers are looking to in their quest to find a way to beat Marc Marquez. Viñales has a two-year contract with the Pons squad in Moto2, and has already posted some impressive results in the class, including a victory at Austin and podiums at Barcelona and Assen. Whether he is ready to move up to MotoGP remains to be seen, however. Viñales has been fast, but also inconsistent. His team manager Sito Pons believes an early move to MotoGP would be a mistake.

Suzuki isn't the only factory likely to enter MotoGP in 2015. Aprilia's new boss Romano Albesiano is pushing for an entry next season, a year ahead of the original schedule. The reasons for the early return are simple: at the moment, the only Aprilias on the grid are the ART machine being ridden by Danilo Petrucci in the IODA team, and the Aprilia-powered bikes of the PBM team. Neither team is making much of an impression against the new Open class bikes, and Aprilia fears their reputation is being damaged by seeing their name being linked with such uncompetitive teams. Aprilia's plan is to come to MotoGP with a completely new bike, only loosely based on the ART RSV4, replete with seamless gearbox and pneumatic valves. This, along with factory support, is meant to provide a much more competitive package.

Who would ride the new Aprilia? Alvaro Bautista's name has been linked with the Italian factory. Bautista's place in MotoGP has been under threat for several years, but his experience with Suzuki and on the Gresini satellite Honda makes him a prime candidate for the factory. Bautista also won a 125cc championship for Aprilia in 2006, and was runner up in the 250cc championship on an Aprilia in 2008. Partnering Bautista could well be Eugene Laverty, currently riding with Suzuki in World Superbikes. Laverty also raced an Aprilia in 250s, and was teammate to Max Biaggi for the Italian factory in World Superbikes. Laverty has also had talks with both Pramac Ducati and with the Suzuki MotoGP team, having tested the Suzuki in Phillip Island earlier this year.

Although a factory ride comes with a lot of advantages, a seat on a satellite Honda may well be more desirable. The bike is clearly competitive – as Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have demonstrated – and for many riders, it is their best shot of getting on the podium. Although LCR Honda boss Lucio Cecchinello is keen to keep Stefan Bradl, the two men having an excellent relationship, HRC is putting pressure on Cecchinello to replace him. Despite official denials from Honda, Cal Crutchlow looks the favorite to take the LCR Honda seat. Crutchlow came very close to taking Bradl's ride last year, but only pleading by Cecchinello secured another year in the team for Bradl. Aleix Espargaro has also been courted by HRC, with the promise of shot at the factory Honda seat in 2017, when Dani Pedrosa's contract expires. Espargaro is unlikely to resist the siren call of Ducati, however; a factory ride next year is worth much more than the chance of one in two seasons' time.

The other name being linked with the LCR Honda seat is the current Moto3 leader Jack Miller. Dorna were very keen to see the Australian racing in MotoGP, as the Australian broadcasting rights for the series are up for renewal soon. A fast, exciting Australian youngster in MotoGP would go a long way to boosting the value of the broadcasting rights in his native country. Contract difficulties with Marc VDS Racing made it difficult for Miller to move. There were also serious and justified doubts over the wisdom of a move straight to MotoGP from Moto3. A MotoGP bike is much heavier and much, much more powerful than a Moto3 machine, meaning that things can get out of hand very fast indeed. Miller was advised to spend at least a year in Moto2, where he can make a more gradual step, first getting accustomed to the greater weight, before being confronted by the extra horsepower. For now, it looks like Miller will end up in the Pons Moto2 squad replacing Viñales, though it could prove costly to buy the Australian out of his contract with Marc VDS.

There is a very good reason to postpone moving to MotoGP until 2016, one which is true for both riders and teams such as Marc VDS and Pons. With Michelin due to be the new spec tire supplier for 2016, and the rules imposing a single set of spec electronics that year, entering MotoGP in 2015 means that everything a rider learns may have to be unlearned again. It is better to wait until 2016, and start off the season on the same foot as existing MotoGP riders, rather than having to contend with their knowledge of the Bridgestone tires. For the teams, waiting until 2016 also means that they can assess which bike is adapting to the Michelins best during the testing period. Choosing which package to go with will be easier next year than it is this season.

At Gresini Honda, Scott Redding should take over the seat vacated by Alvaro Bautista, as his contract says he should. Gresini was holding off on a commitment, but with Bautista gone, the choice is much easier to make. Even if Redding doesn't get the RC213V, he should be on a more competitive package anyway. Angered by the Open class package which Yamaha has offered to Forward Racing, HRC has vowed to produce a much more competitive bike for 2015. Next year's RCV1000R will feature pneumatic valves and much more horsepower, and be used in part as a test bed for the 2016 rules, when all of the entries switch to a single set of rules. The performance upgrades should give the bike the top end and acceleration it has been missing this year, though the bike will not have the seamless gearbox being used by the factory option bikes.

Who will take the second bike at Gresini – or perhaps even the second bike at LCR Honda, if they get the additional sponsorship they hope from their new partner, CWM World? One candidate is Johnny Rea, the Irishman currently riding for Ten Kate Honda in World Superbikes. Rea has regularly shown he is capable of getting results beyond the capability of the outdated CBR1000RR, and with there still being no sign Honda actually producing and selling the V4 sportsbike they have threatened to introduce for the past two seasons, Rea's options of competing for a WSBK title are limited. Rea has repeatedly stated that he will not come to MotoGP just to make up the numbers, but the new version of the production Honda may offer opportunities which this year's bike does not have. Whether Rea receives any support from HRC remains to be seen. The relationship between HRC and Honda Europe is not such that HRC would automatically assist Rea with a seat.

With Pol Espargaro committed to staying in the Tech 3 Yamaha team – perhaps persuaded by the fact that Jorge Lorenzo will have an option to leave at the end of 2015, possibly opening the way for Espargaro to enter the factory team – the question is who will take the other seat in the Tech 3 garage. Herve Poncharal has still not ruled out keeping Bradley Smith, but the Englishman has had a string of disastrous results. Smith has not lacked speed, often being among the fastest riders on track during the race, and even topping the timesheets during free practice, but he has failed to translate that into points and results. Smith will make way for a newcomer, most likely a rider from Moto2. Jonas Folger is the name currently being bandied around for the ride, the young German having adapted rapidly to Moto2. His problem is that he is even more inconsistent than Maverick Viñales, as he too is just a rookie in Moto2. Moving up this early could be a risk for Folger, though it would be a popular move in Germany.

An even more outlandish suggestion is that Alex Rins could take the seat at Tech 3. Herve Poncharal insisted to me at Assen that he was seriously considering riders from Moto3, as they would be excellent publicity both for the Monster Tech 3 team, and for MotoGP in general. Rins is known to be on the list of candidates talking to Tech 3 for a move to Moto2. It is just a small, if somewhat speculative step to foresee Rins skipping Moto2 altogether.

Rins has plenty of other options, however, and some fairly strong ones. Several Moto2 teams are interested in the Spaniard for 2015. Perhaps the most likely place for Rins to end would be with the Marc VDS Racing team. That team is believed to be close to a deal with Alex Marquez for 2015, and with the team likely to drop its Moto3 slot, it could be given a third place on the Moto2 grid. That would make room for both Alex Marquez and Alex Rins, as well as allowing Tito Rabat to spend one more year in Moto2. That would leave Mika Kallio without a ride, but given the outstanding year Kallio is having, he should have no problems finding another seat.

With Colin Edwards retiring and Aleix Espargaro destined for a factory seat, the Forward Racing team will have two seats to fill for next year. The most obvious candidate to fill one seat would be Bradley Smith, as his experience with the Tech 3 team would give him a head start on the Forward bike. His input would also be invaluable in helping develop the Forward frame, as Yamaha will only be providing engines for lease next year, and withdrawing the chassis package which Aleix Espargaro is using this season. The second seat alongside Smith is up for grabs, with Yamaha interested to use that seat as a second channel for bringing young talent into MotoGP. Right now, there are few candidates to make the move, which could leave the seat vacant for Stefan Bradl. If the German does lose his ride at LCR Honda as expected, he would make an excellent candidate in the Forward racing team.

Forward Racing's Giovanni Cuzari is not the only team manager interested in signing Bradl. With Iannone almost certain to vacate the Pramac Ducati seat, Bradl could be moved in as his replacement. Bradl is also a useful figure for Ducati in Germany, as he is from Augsburg in Bavaria, not far from Ducati's owner Audi. Having Bradl ride a Ducati could provide a key marketing tool for the Italian factory in one of its most important markets.

Bradl could still remain with Honda, but it would be on a production RCV1000R. Question marks remain over whether Hiroshi Aoyama will retain his seat at Aspar, though Honda are keen to keep a Japanese rider on the books. The original plan was for Takaaki Nakagami to make the step up from Moto2, but the Japanese rider is having a nightmare season with the Honda Idemitsu team. The entire team, run by former Repsol Honda rider Tady Okada, is new to the Kalex chassis, and they are struggling to find a base set up. For the moment, it looks like Nakagami is stuck in Moto2.

Whether Bradl takes Aoyama's ride, or the Japanese rider stays with Aspar, they will be teammates to Nicky Hayden. Hayden is in the first year of a two-year contract with Aspar, and despite continuing problems with his wrist, intends to stay at least another year in MotoGP. Hayden will be staying where he is, as will Karel Abraham on the Cardion AB Honda.

After a year of more serious input from Kawasaki with scarce results, the Avintia team looks set to abandon the Japanese factory and switch to Ducatis. The deal would be similar to Yonny Hernandez' contract for this season, with the Avintia squad racing this Desmosedici GP14s next season. They would at least be a good deal more competitive than the current ZX10-R based machines.

Below is a matrix with all of the expected signings in the next few weeks. Many of these should be confirmed by the time racing resumes at Indianapolis on 10th August.

Factory Ducati  
  Andrea Iannone
  Aleix Espargaro
Factory Suzuki  
  Andrea Dovizioso / Cal Crutchlow
  Maverick Viñales / Eugene Laverty/Aleix Espargaro/Andrea Iannone
LCR Honda  
  Cal Crutchlow?/Aleix Espargaro
  Jack Miller?/Johnny Rea?
Gresini Honda  
  Scott Redding
  Johnny Rea?
Tech 3  
  Pol Espargaro
  Jonas Folger / Alex Rins?
Forward Racing  
  Bradley Smith
  Stefan Bradl?
Pramac Ducati  
  Stefan Bradl? / Eugene Laverty
  Yonny Hernandez?
  Alvaro Bautista?/Hiroshi Aoyama
  Nicky Hayden
  Eugene Laverty?
  Alvaro Bautista?
Avintia Ducati  
  Hector Barbera
Marc VDS  
  Tito Rabat
  Alex Marquez
  Alex Rins?
  Jack Miller
  Luis Salom

Names in bold are either confirmed or the most likely candidate for the slot.

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The proto Kawasaki team's results have indeed been poor this season, sadly. With Avintia apparently leaving their solo position with Kawasaki to become a third tier Ducati team shows quite the level they think they could possibly attain.

What could this mean with Kawasaki? Kawasaki Racing personnel seemed to repeat they were not interested in returning to MotoGP before they won in World Superbikes. Now they have, can you imagine they will return to MotoGP, in some capacity. I remember reading the head of Forward saying he had had talks with Kawasaki about running a team (although it was never clear if that meant CRT, then open, or factory).

For particularly Team Green fans but I'd hope all MotoGP fans the idea of the last of the big four Japanese factories returning to GPs is exciting. Any chance do you think, Mr Emmett?

Kawasaki have 2 choices: spend 5 million a year to dominate World Superbikes, or spend 50 million a year to come 12th in MotoGP. The math is not hard.

...I had heard Paul Bird make the same point repeatedly when he was in control of the factory team. The problem with such an argument is that it seems Aprilia and Suzuki (along with Honda, Yamaha and Ducati, of course) surely face the same mathematics, yet they come to a different conclusion. There must be more than maths involved.

There is more than mathematics involved. It is a sum of how much a factory wants to spend, and what kind of return they believe they will get. Some factories believe the returns in R&D and marketing are enough to make the investment worthwhile. Yamaha and Honda definitely get more than their money's worth. Ducati need to build a competitive bike, which they may still do next year, and then they, too, will get their money's worth, although frankly, most of their costs are borne by Philip Morris. PM still believe they are getting their money's worth. 

Neither Suzuki nor Aprilia will earn back their investment. Suzuki is spending a relative pittance, and will not build a competitive bike, and Aprilia is in much the same boat. The problem for Aprilia is that their bike is being made to look bad because it is being used by two of the least competitive teams. They need to enter just to stop the bike looking so bad.

Rationally speaking, MotoGP only makes sense for Yamaha and Honda, and even Yamaha are on a very constrained budget. It only makes sense for Ducati, because they get a lot of financial help. Why Suzuki and Aprilia are competing is a mystery.

'Why Suzuki and Aprilia are competing is a mystery'

David, why do you commit your life to MotoGP? Surely you would be making more money doing nearly anything. Why do people race? WHY? In school/training to be a psychotherapist one quickly learns that 'Why' is a question to be avoided. It just goes plop on the floor next to the couch.

I remember a friend of a friend long ago was working as a general contractor for Habitat for Humanity building houses for the poor here in the Pacific NW of the U.S. and I am ashamed at what I said openly critically of him in a dim moment - 'he is such a slacker, why is he working there when he would be making three times as much money doing the exact same work in the for-profit sector.' I worked in hospitals and public health outpatient clinics full time since the end of the 90's until taking a yr off to just Be, then started my own clinic. With a sliding fee scale to work w the under insured. Making less money. Why?

Why did I race motorcycles for many yrs, putting ALL my money, vacation time, after work hrs in the shop w the bike, building relationships w gazillions of others equally compelled to be in motorcycle racing? Studying and researching the latest nuance of bike development? Carving lap after lap on tracks sculpting technique? Fixing a beat up van w a bed in the back that held two bikes and a pit scooter? Breathing paint fumes each late winter in an underventilated garage passionate about new livery I was going to crash the first race weekend?

Why do we do it? Money?? Good lordy no. Why does someone fall in love? Start using drugs? Why does a caterpillar go into a chrysalis and turn into goop? Consideration of the cost-benefit analysis of butterfly-ness?

We don't even DECIDE to go racing really. Each step gets taken from the last. We can watch the whole thing happen. It has an element of a dream-like quality. There is a compulsion. I remember boobs in Jr High School. And beer. And a scooter. And being 'overly responsible' for a good while to become a 'good enough psychotherapist.' Watching myself buy a Suzuki SV650 and recognizing an insurgent adolescent resurfacing to join the 'developed and successful professional.' Then a perfectly sensible move to 'getting some skills on the track.' Then 'I must have a Yamaha R1' and sort the suspension out. Then each little step just 'mostly made sense' and I was building a race bike in the garage for novice school 'to save money on track time' and 'enjoy a track-only bike.' Then...

"The best dumb decision(s) you can make!"

Come on Kawi, the water is getting really nice and there is a window of time here to get in mid-pack on Michelins, w a nice little electronics package from Dorna. You can beat Suzuki and Aprilia and Ducati w a reasonable budget. Heck your Ninja 250 cup sure took off where super singles, 125GP, vintage bikes and such were (and here we thought that Honda 250 Moto3 bike would fill our paddock). Hmm, does it make economic sense? Eh, what's that you say? The Hayate budget seems to have done the job. Howzabout we just take a next step here - Tom Sykes is available to try out that one chassis/motor combo on the Michelins, we could do that. It just seems to assert itself in my consciousness...

Once again the comments section hits the ball out of the park :)

Very nice, Motoshrink.

Another thought that came to mind was a comment I read many years ago... "Ducati goes racing for the same reason that wolves howl at the moon".

Howling at the moon... that's what wolves do. And Ducati races. Even if you can extend that reasoning to Aprilia, you can't stretch that logic far enough to explain Suzuki, in my opinion. Unlike Ducati (and Honda and Yamaha), I don't believe racing is fundamental to the Suzuki DNA.

Ducati races for the same reason wolves howl at the moon.

Honda, at its root a small engine company, races for the same reason a tractor pulls stuff or Godzilla breaks stuff.

Suzuki races because Honda does, but with really crappy livery and electronics on a fraction of the budget. They focus on national level, w solid contingency programs for average club racers on up to major national teams.

Kawasaki races for the same reason Suzuki does, with equally crappy but different livery and electronics, as a more motorcycle focused company.

Yamaha races for the same reason that people sing in the shower, they can't help it and it feels nice, especially when they beat Honda the ubiquitous engine company while harmonizing bike-rider-track like Lennon-McCartney-Harrison.

Aprilia races for the same reason that people spend too much on shirts from concerts. It proves they were there and chicks dig it while they kid themselves they look great in a tee shirt and jeans.

Harley Davidson doesn't race for the same reason that fish don't fly.

Triumph races for the same reason that people get orthodontics...infrequently and w mixed results as Englishmen, but that triple has interesting character much alike that gap in the teeth.

BMW goes racing for the same reason that at mid life a man gets a convertible and has an affair w his secretary.

Go ahead w the 2 stars, this is an Illmore of a post if you ask me, but there does seem to be a big difference in the DNA of Ducati and Honda. Honda is more bent on dominating every aspect of engineering that has to do with a motor rather than justvracing motorcycles. They are Godzilla.

Agree 100% about the differences between the Ducati DNA and the Honda DNA. And don't forget, some fish CAN fly and Harley-Davidson is Godzilla in flat track (and drag racing too, I believe).

Lucky winner in the musical seat shuffle? - Crutchlow on to LCR Honda! That is a curveball coup.

Big gambler award? A.Espargaro, and I am cheering for him and Gigi. Passed on LCR, and that Factory Honda can win a race next yr from the cheap seats I am viewing from. Gigi's all new Ducati, throw of the dice.

Just flirting, and staying in Moto2 = Miller.

Speaking of all new bikes, my understanding differs a bit on the Aprilia. I believe they have a tip to tail new bike coming for 2016, which makes sense given all the change afoot. Next yr is a ART development bike w an updated top end and seamless gearbox and increased factory involvement w grid spot establishment for the 2016 bike. Unlikely to be a big performer next season.

Motomann joked yesterday about Rea to Motogp Honda, and I think he has a great idea here. Good news! Put pen to paper! The bike situation for LCR seeking to add a bike is frustrating. Can't have a satellite bike, and would have to pay THREE times the price of the others for an Open Prod Honda. Jeez louise! :( I see Rea being top Open Honda from the get go.

Smith and Bradl are deserving of MotoGP seats. Hernandez and Aoyama on the other hand...

I disagree about the relative merits of picking up Duc GP14's for a million Euros, a turnkey bike at that price is a bargain and a solid step fwd for Avinta relative to the CRTs they have been running. Looks wise to me Moto4, look for them to be ahead of Suzuki and Aprilia at Qatar. Very much looking fwd to be seeing a rider more skilled than Hernandez on an Open Ducati to get an idea of what it can do. They have a much better handle on the electronics now relative to everyone else running Open, and this is a big deal for 2015.

Wish: 2016 rules tires and bikes now. I guess this will be interesting just as it is, enjoying watching Marquez knock off records, these races are more interesting than the old 'Rossi waits in 2nd, cat and mouse, then runs off into the distance on his Honda' days for me.

I was really looking forward to the idea of Team Espargaro. I thought it was a great move (to Tech3) for Aleix and a less harsh move for Bradley (to Forward).

I'll keep hope alive.

It would be great to see that .... And them against team Marquez, and team Lowe, and team Lavertys. Any other siblings that could pair up? I suppose VR could cheat a little and use Louis Rossi ;-)

No doubt Dovi would be a good choice at Suzuki to develop their new bike due to his experience on Factory spec Hondas Ducatis & Yamahas in concert with his consistently high level of riding, but isn't this exactly the reason Ducati should hold onto him? Gigi has a new bike for 2015, surely Ducati need him even more than Suzuki.

I've seen reports that Suzuki is offering about double the money that Ducati is offering. Four million euro per year versus two million. I can't vouch for accuracy, but have seen those estimates published.

Think for a moment about that. Dovi has been around awhile, no spring chicken just emerging on the scene. And generally considered an excellent journeyman pilot rather than a prominent candidate to win the world championship. So double the money speaks loud and clear...

On the other hand, he is Italian and generally popular among the public. And Ducati is the iconic Italian marque, essentially the Italian national team (as is also whatever bike Valentino is riding). And Ducati wants to keep Dovi, so for Dovi to flee to Suzuki is a very damaging vote of "no confidence" in Ducati's prospects. At least it seems that way to me.

Things have been heading in a bad direction for Australian fans in MotoGP. This year Moto3 and Moto2 - previously screened on the free-to-air Ten/One network - were siphoned off to the pay-TV network. All we get on One now is the MotoGP race. We don't even get MotoGP practice or qualifying any more.

It's clear that Australia is an important audience to Dorna, and having a competitive Aussie on a good bike is crucial to viewership here. But Dorna's priority, going by the experience in other countries (and I've been there), seems to be more about selling the rights to the highest bidder, rather than worrying about how many people will get to watch.

I'm not sure how Jack Miller feeds into that. Do they want him in MotoGP so that the current free-to-air network (or another free-to-air network) is willing to pay a premium for the rights? Or are they just looking for the biggest dollar figure regardless of whether it will be on free or pay TV?

Interested in the thoughts of David and others.

I'm surprised the Australian market is at all valuable to Dorna. Despite the past success of its riders, Very few Australians have any idea what MotoGP is, let alone wake up at 4am to watch the US rounds or stay up till midnight for 1/2 the European races.
I've no idea what is paid for the rights to show it, but it can't be all that valuable to the broadcasters. In terms of advertising revenue it only attracts B grade Suzuki, insurance as well as the odd BMW motorad and local motorcycle dealership advertisements, they couldn't be paying much for those slots.
But if that really is the basis for promoting Miller to the big leagues, Dorna must be desperate for that revenue. I can't imagine Dorna wouldn't be better off promoting Quataro the Frenchman or a rider of a similarly populous homeland.
Those few who do watch MotoGP in Aus are very passionate about it, but the revenue from those few isn't worth millions of dollars in my view.
Perhaps the broadcasters competing for the rights and Dorna don't see it that way.
At least those watching from Australia don't have to endure the British BTsport commentary team, that has to be worth something to the viewers?? To be able to watch with the sound on and not go insane definitely has some value.

There might be more Aussies watching than you think - most of my friends watch it, then again most of them ride - but your comment is pretty fair.

However I suspect that Dorna is driven as much by the demands of the participants as by its own revenue streams, and Australia is on a per capita basis a pretty big motorcycle market... even if not all riders bother with MotoGP. I'm sure I recall reading that Oz was actually Ducati's largest market outside of Italy in the late eighties/early nineties, and I still remember wondering in amazement at how many 916s I saw when out and about, at a time when a GSX-R was $12k and a 916 was well over double that.

So maybe its Honda and Yamaha pushing to retain and grow the Australian television audience.

As for the commentary team - I'm over Nick Harris, but I understand that there's certainly worse options out there...

Well ... I've lived for extended periods in both Britain and Australia as well as some other countries.

I don't think anyone would dismiss Britain as an important market for MotoGP, and I can tell you that _per capita_, I think there's more awareness of and interest in MotoGP in Australia than there is in Britain - perhaps it's something to do with us having three GP world champions in the past 25 years or so ...

Most people in Australia, in my experience, would have at least a fleeting idea who Casey Stoner is. In Britain, if I said Carl Fogarty, Neil Hodgson, Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow or a similar name to the average person I'd be met wth a blank expression.

My point is that it's not so much the size of the overall potential market/population here, as we have a small population. Rather it's the proportion of those people who will take an interest _if there's an Aussie riding in MotoGP_. If you keep it free to air, you'll capture a lot more of that interest, but if you go to pay-TV you'll lose the people at the margins who would otherwise watch but are not prepared to pay for a subscription.

Perhaps Dorna have done the calculations and figured out that they can afford to lose the marginal fan base if they get paid enough for the broadcast rights. I hope not though.

The Ten network have been running live MotoGP telecasts here in Oz for many years but this year they have stopped showing Moto3 and Moto2. Instead they provide a brief roundup during the local commentators half hour post MotoGP live telecast.
The thing that kills me is that Moto3 and Moto2 have always provided spectacular racing and this year we have Jack Miller storming along in Moto3 but very few Australians are able to watch it.
I hope that Miller does the smart thing and goes to Moto2 next year but I fear that if the Ten network win the rights again, we will again miss his ascent and he will remain an unknown in Australia until he begins his MotoGP career.

Dorna sell the rights to Foxtel and he remains an unknown forever.

He goes straight to motogp and doesn't shine for whatever reason and remains relatively unknown.

Now that was s damn good channel, in fact it was through watching SBS that I came back to watching bikes, as well as seeing some of the best world cinema ever.

I am little saddened by the comment that the predecessor of Luigi Dall'Igna did not do much to make the Ducati more rider friendly. You could be referring to Bernd Gobmeier here but I think he spent too little time at Ducati to take the blame for non-performance. Therefore I think whatever your intention David, fingers will point at Filippo Preziosi rather than Gobmeier. I think Ducati has landed where it has due to the Valentino Rossi years. His impatience and the pressure on Preziosi to deliver led to a sudden direction change of direction as far as the chassis is concerned and Ducati were trying to do something that they never did before and deliver results in the very first year. I wonder how Preziosi's solution of the carbon fibre chassis would have worked with a more patient and less to prove rider at the helm. I think we will never know the answer to that. But without doubt Preziosi (I am his fan) became an unfortunate scapegoat thanks reasons more political than technical.

I am disheartened that Kawasaki is not showing any inclination to return to MotoGP. David, your logic that you can be World Champion with 5 million a year rather than be 12th with 50 million can also be true of Suzuki, Ducati and Aprilia. That is apart from Honda and Yamaha. So then why are they choosing to be in MotoGP? I am a fan of Kawasaki and I really would like to see them in MotoGP rather than in World Superbike. What they were doing with Avintia and Forward Racing (till last year) can hardly be called involvement in MotoGP. Engine supply to perennial back markers is hardly the way forward. That is my tuppence, there can be disagreements I guess.

Great summary! However I keep on thinking how much Red Bull will influence the faith of Rea. As his personal sponsor they wouldn't allow him on a Green&Go Honda. But that's just my opinion... I hope he gets a solid ride in MotoGP, he deseves it, but it may well be the energy drinks who have the final word in this matter.

Its Gresini Go n Fun bro. Rea is not moving to GP. Too many variables & asses available for the good seats in the GP Paddock itself.

Plus I recall him being diplomatic about it in one interview but you could tell from his face that he would have loved that but accepted that its wishful thinking and becomes unlikely as he ages. He has been taken the same way Hayden has been for a few years.. very talented and dedicated, taken advantage of, dumped/forgotten to the backstage.

I posted this a few years ago, but.....when Ducati had the carbon fiber chassis, everyone had issues with the design, saying that was the major problem with the bike. So, when Rossi arrived and he flopped on it, it had to be the chassis design. Aluminum in/carbon fiber out....nothing has really changed. A buddy of mine, who worked for Rockwell Aerospace, and had decades of experience with carbon fiber, told me that the issue(s) with the Ducati had nothing to do with the carbon fiber. It was much easier to work with then aluminum. There were other issues with the bike. Hmmm.....

We aslo hear that the designs of the bikes, all of them, are really stagnant, as no one wants to take a leap and design something totally different. Even in M2 and M3. Hopefully, 2016 will close up the field, but I doubt it.

On another note: since many think that Marc is decimating the field due to his superior bike, I threw him out of the WC and added up the points, moving everyone up 1 spot. Dani and Vale would be TIED with 174 pts (if my math is correct). So, the washed up old man is tied with Dani on the superior bike! Don't think so. I think that the bikes are very equal in performance, +'s and -'s for each, and that if 'The Kid' were on the Yamaha, the standings would be the same! He's smoking the field due to SUPERIOR TALENT! He's changed the playing field, as Tiger did in '97 when he arrived on scene, and the guys in the Spanish Championship, and maybe M3, are his rivils simply because they can see the bar has been raised and know where they have to go....IMHO.

It's interesting how the speculation shifts. Last week it was rumored to be The Tech 3 Espargaro team and now... Jonas Folger?!?!? That's surprising. I understand that markets can play big roles in rider signings but Folger wasn't on my radar for GP at all. It's been great to see glimpses of his potential in Moto2 and he definitely adapted to the bike quickly. Vinales and Salom have also showed this same ability to learn quickly and go fast in their first years. But all three of these riders suffer what many rookies do - inconsistency. Vinales is being looked at for GP and that makes more sense to me at this point given the results in the first half. He seems to be the most likely choice for promotion. He has had issues at some tracks and has qualified poorly on occasion but he is usually very fast on Sunday.

I think David's ealier messages/tweets about a perceived desperation to beat Marquez are spot on. This desperation could lead to a few things: it could provide some great seats to up and coming young guns and give them a chance to learn and grow in GP while they are physically sharp and resilient. This is of course what I hope happens and we will enjoy the effects of that with more exciting on-track action. The more reserved take on it is that riders who are clearly not ready to make the jump to the GP class (here Jack Miller and Jonas Folger come to mind - disclosure: personally, I'd even give Vinales another year in Moto2) end up thrown into the deep end on bikes that they either a) can't control or b) is a second tier bike, suffering as a result and fading into obscurity. These guys are talented for sure, but so are Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio. Kallio came back from GP so it is likely that no team is interested in bringing him back up, but I figured Tito would be battling for the championship and get the shot next year. He is 25(?) and maybe seen as old to teams looking to beat Marquez but given his performance he seems like the only rider ready for the jump. In 2016 with Pons and Marc VDS looking into GP entries, why not wait the year and see how everything plays out.

I can't imagine what it would be like to get an offer to ride in GP and how could you not take it?? But I think that this rush to find the next phenom may be a little too hasty and short-sighted. The talent is brewing in the lower classes. It will arrive in the premier class and should arrive as a natural progression in these young riders' careers. In the meantime, Marc Marquez has shifted the paradigm in such a way that might warrant some reflection.

I also realize that all of this is BECAUSE of what Marquez has been able to do. If a rookie can win a GP title then perhaps we should embrace the possible and jump all-in into a future era of GP racing with open eyes and minds. Either way- I'm pretty fired up for the future!

I suppose the conventional wisdom is that Sykes is too old (he turns 29 next month), but he has certainly ridden at a very high level the past two years, and should be in the MotoGP rider discussion for a satellite seat. The almost complete lack of interest in WSBK riders (exception Johnny Rea, age 27) seems short-sighted. There is likely some good talent in WSBK, not just Moto2/Moto3. Baz, Giugliano, Davies ? C'mon, Hector Barbera has been in MotoGP for 5 seasons, time for a new face.

Man. That was a lot. Read every line. Alvaro Bautista has been flirting with loosing his ride for a long time. Complaints about having Showa instead of Ohlins. Show is not a low level suspension company. They have enough world titles to prove it in the highest class of racing. Engine and other bits are of Factory Spec, he just is not focused enough until time to sign with someone. Probably one of the riders I would put HIGH on the list to be demoted to Moto2. Redding is very deserving of Bautista's ride even this year.

A. Espargaro to Ducati is a surprise for me. But looking at his track record, he has proven to be a rider that can make a difference on a bike that is CLEARLY not up to snuff. Things he did on that ART against SATELLITE bikes was truly inspiring. Him being a gauge for Lorenzo may be a mistake. Looking at Lorenzo this year struggle with changes, and his own mental imprisonment makes me think even if Aleix does well, Lorenzo may not be able to do the same. Ducati have always been bikes riders mesh or adapt to. Not a bike that meshes or can be adapted to the rider. From what I have seen, Lorenzo can adapt to a certain degree, but the bike has to change to him. Aleix rides the tail off a bike good or bad. Even when it does not have anywhere near the horsepower, braking of a better bike.

Dovi and Crutchlow seem to somehow end up together. Dovi is a good solid rider, proven not to be a title contender, (I am basing this on his time at Repsol Honda. No better team in the paddock to challenge for titles.) But Dovi at Suzuki makes me feel like retirement is coming in the next few years. Crutchlow has a strong fanbase who will loose it if you talk too bad about him, but has yet to show he can be more than a podium runner. Could see him leaving Ducati by choice. I still do not think he really had an understanding of what he was getting into when he joined Ducati. But do think this lesson will stick with him for the rest of his career.

Folger Tech 3. That is surprising and seemingly out of nowhere. Judging from Herve Poncharal's choice's in the past, I have to go with him. The man gets people that can deliver and gets them to. Even if all they end up delivering is press from disappointments to press from being the next phenom. If Poncharal wants Folger that just means he sees potential not everyone sees. And he has proven to be above average in that department.

Could go on and on, but at work, and beginning to be watched for slacking off. Thanks for the info David!

Well said re Herve Poncheral Whoragerider. Tech 3 has a very special place in the paddock for both his relationship established w Yamaha AND this ability to place riders.

His own mental imprisonment' re JL99 - love it. Lorenzo though just has that temperament and has/can/will create a key to his own cell. His awareness is placed a bit more closely and sharply relative to the Rossi/Marquez diffuse open dance. He got Butter <~~> Hammer sorted with the M1 and his way of being with the bike and track massaged its way out of the atmosphere into Alien realm last season gloriously. He is back down into orbit, and can build a third Butter-Hammer synergy boost just as he does ('Fuego' on his brake protector?). Yamaha, please, even a bit more from the motor ASAP!

Methinks Cal knew JUST what he was getting into this yr, and is doing the best he can step by step, including getting off that thing and onto a Factory (as in not Open) Honda! To those that attempt to censor the mouths of riders, careful what you wish for. I like Cal's mouth! He's 'real.' And has career trajectory not yet potentiated. Which, inverse to observation of Dovi we can see, that LCR bike can bear to fruition next season while these other rides can't. Brilliant and fortunate! Cal can give himself a leg up in 2015 and over a best avail seat for 2016 as Beautista, Bradl, Pedrosa, Dovi, and a few others descend from their go at escaping the earthbound gravity of astronauts not "Alien-ing."

I can go on and on too, no clients this afternoon. Off to garden then change the oil on the 600RR (on which good laps just uneventfully and smoothly pour forth btw).


Many thanks for the information.

I'm a Suzuki fan. I would love to see Dovi comes to the team but I think he will stay at Ducati.

Don't you just love silly season.

Two days ago it was all change at Ducati, today both riders confirm that they are staying put!

Which also pretty much scuppers the rest of the predictions!

Wrong then so I suppose it's try again!